By John Chambless
An overflow crowd attended the May 21 board of supervisors meeting in Franklin Township as the five supervisors considered the most recent request from Gourmet's Delight Mushroom Company to expand its composting facility.
The expansion plan, which was first introduced to the supervisors in 2003, has been a subject of sometimes intense debate over the past decade. The mushroom farm in London Grove Township is seeking to expand onto an adjacent property which lies within Franklin Township. The company wants to build an 80,000-square-foot growing plant on the property, which had been proposed as the site of a housing development at one time.
At the May 21 meeting, resident Pat Talwin submitted a petition signed by 65 people from Franklin Township, and presented a power point report. Board president John Auerbach led the open discussion and said that the board supported a 2009 zoning officer's opinion that mushroom composting is not allowed at the proposed location. About 12 residents gave their opinions and concerns about the plant proposal, and the board asked the current zoning officer to respond to an attorney from Gourmet's Delight with the zoning opinion.
In a March 2014 letter, Gourmet's Delight wrote to township manager Joan McVaugh to address the concerns of residents.
The company says that odors from the proposed composting plant will be reduced by an indoor aerated process. Gabe Valentino, controller for Gourmet's Delight, wrote in his letter to McVaugh that, “It is our view that we have demonstrated our commitment to a low-impact, state-of-the-art composting facility that will be a major upgrade to the traditional composting processes that are associated with mushroom growing in Chester County.”
Gourmet's Delight currently operates 34 mushroom growing rooms on about 40 acres in London Grove Township. In 2011, the company got approval from London Grove Township to add 12 additional growing rooms on the existing farm. They have not begun building. The company produces the mushroom compost needed for the 34 rooms. About half of the compost production is on an outdoor wharf, and the other half is done in a semi-enclosed building with aeration slots in the floor to reduce odor.
In order to build the 12 mushroom growing rooms that have been approved by London Grove Township, the company must replace the outdoor composting area. They are proposing to build an enclosed facility on the disputed 24-acre property in Franklin Township. Once the new facility is operational, the outdoor area would be shut down and 12 additional growing rooms would be built on the footprint of the outdoor operation. The company estimates a three- to five-year time frame for the project.
The March 2014 proposal from Gourmet's Delight details 14 points, saying the company will:
Comply with all state and federal regulations;
Get all of the required plans and analyses required by Franklin Township;
Examine possibly screening between the compost facility and adjacent residential properties;
Complete an annual water budget analysis looking at surface water and groundwater to show that the company will not harm any well within 1,000 feet of the site;
Install an air quality monitoring program that would test hydrogen sulfide levels at neighboring property lines;
Demonstrate safe access routes to the site for fire and rescue personnel, and control odors and litter blowing or spreading from the site;
Provide a topographical plan by a registered engineer;
Provide lighting that will comply with Franklin Township requirements.
The Gourmet's Delight proposal now will be answered by Franklin Township's zoning officer. The issue will be addressed at future board of supervisors meetings. Visit www.franklintownship.us for updated information.